Friday, January 04, 2008

Is the US Judicial System Broken?

It is a common belief - at least in the USA - that the system of justice in the US is the best in the world. As I write, AOL is conducting a poll - "How much confidence do you have in the US justice system?" The current tally is disturbing.

Taking a slice from my last couple weeks with respect the judicial system:

1) My son, 19, was called to jury duty. Think about this - a 19 year old might sit on a jury that impacts you. Yes, we will let a 19 year old put on a uniform and die for us, but somehow having one sit on your jury seems different. (As an aside, late December in Sacramento County exposes one to a potential full panel of young jurors as many young people defer service until a long holiday.) My son was not impaneled, but observed the process and increased his awareness and interest in the legal system. The system worked just fine.

2) A friend considered suicide as an alternative manner to handle the sub-prime mortgage mess and other issues in his life. The judicial system locked him up for 72 hours before conducting a hearing and releasing him. My friend - at least at this point in time - would tell you he didn't need to be "held" and of course in my professional capacity I would agree. As a friend, I'd say the system worked fine.

3) A client I spoke to yesterday wondered why it was taking so long for an arbitration award. The delay seems unreasonable as the law is crystal clear and in my client's favor as to issues that would dispose of 90% of the matter. I'd say the system is not working well. The reason, it takes too long.

4) A publicly traded company in which I hold shares is mired in litigation in multiple jurisdictions.

a) In one jurisdiction a soon-to-be-retired jurist appeared to view issues through resulted orientated glasses. The company was forced to settle claims and dismiss others to avoid this jurist impacting litigation in other jurisdictions. I'd say the system did not work well. The reason, the difficulty in questioning the integrity of a federal judge "acting within his/her discretion".

b) In another jurisdiction the multiple trials required to resolve the litigation have taken years. I'd say the system is not working well. The reason, the ease in which parties can slow litigation and the workload of the understaffed jurist.

c) And then there is the Federal Trade Commission . . . it is simply broken and should be scraped.

Is the judicial system broken? No. Is it due for maintenance? Yes, and more funding. Are there some bad apples and slackers in the system. No doubt about it.

The AOL poll:

How much confidence do you have in the U.S. judicial system?

A little . . . 59% . . . 22,534
None . . . . 25% . . . 9,609
A lot . . . . .16% . . . .5,997

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